Reporting John Shumway
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Pentagon has lifted its ban on women in combat.
United States Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the historic change on Thursday. But how do people feel about the move?
The idea of women in combat is nothing new.
“If you get ambushed, and a woman is in a convoy, that woman is going to fight and shoot back. She is already in combat,” says Capt. Sean Parnell, the author of “Outlaw Platoon.”
KDKA’s John Shumway reports:
More than 150 have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan during the wars, but the duty has fallen short of patrols and missions in search of the enemy.
That’s what the outlaw platoon that Capt. Parnell commanded did in Afghanistan for 16 months.
“I don’t want to see any barriers to service,” said Capt. Parnell. “If someone wants to serve the country, they should be able to do it to the fullest extent possible as long as it’s the most qualified person.”
Take the issue of women on the front lines to the streets of Pittsburgh, and it is pretty cut and dry.
“If they want to be in combat, that is their choice and they should be able to,” said one Pittsburgher.
“I think women can do anything men can do, but there are certain female issue that come into combat, health issues,” added another.
“Women should be allowed to do whatever they want to do,” another person said.
“As long as they can fill the requirements of the job, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it,” said another local resident.
That is precisely Capt. Parnell’s position – if they are the most qualified, they should be there. But he says there are logistical issues that can’t be ignored when lives are on the line.
“With all my combat gear on, I’m close to 300 pounds. Would a woman be able to carry me 100-yards to an aid station without tiring?” says Capt. Parnell. “Those are the kinds of things boot-on-the-ground soldiers think about. And we think the same thing about men who can’t hack it physically.”
And there are other questions. Will men take more risks to protect a woman? And what about issues of sexuality?
“It would be different; it’s something we’re not used to,” Capt. Parnell adds. “I think it would be difficult.”
Capt. Parnell says the issue is surprisingly simple. The military has to make sure that when soldiers are in a fight for their lives, the person next to them gives them the best chance to come home alive.
Army veteran, Ben Keen, the founder of Steel City Vets, says he supports this move. He discusses with NewsRadio 1020 KDKA’s Mike Pintek how it shouldn’t matter the gender of a person, just as long as they’re trained and qualified.
Click the link below to listen to the full interview: